Review: Legacy of Ash (Legacy Trilogy #1) by Matthew Ward

Rating: 10/10

Synopsis

A shadow has fallen over the Tressian Republic.

Ruling families — once protectors of justice and democracy — now plot against one another with sharp words and sharper knives. Blinded by ambition, they remain heedless of the threat posed by the invading armies of the Hadari Empire.

Yet as Tressia falls, heroes rise.

Viktor Akadra is the Republic’s champion. A warrior without equal, he hides a secret that would see him burned as a heretic.

Josiri Trelan is Viktor’s sworn enemy. A political prisoner, he dreams of reigniting his mother’s failed rebellion.

And yet Calenne Trelan, Josiri’s sister, seeks only to break free of their tarnished legacy; to escape the expectation and prejudice that haunts the family name.

As war spreads across the Republic, these three must set aside their differences in order to save their home. Yet decades of bad blood are not easily set aside. And victory — if it comes at all — will demand a darker price than any of them could have imagined.

Review

Legacy of Ash … well, now, wasn’t that quite the read?

It’s safe to say that I haven’t read anything quite so unputdownable this year. Not in the sense that I read it all in one go, life got in the way of that, and the hardback is quite heavy. But in the sense that I thought about this book in between reading it, wondered about the characters, despaired as I started to run out of pages to read, and speculated about how, what, why, and more importantly, when will the next instalment come out?

This novel follows multiple points of view, from the bad-ass, yet flawed, claymore wielding hero, the assassin, the soldier, the crooked politician and so on (well that’s what I knew them as, and there are many more than that). Ward’s first skill, or so I thought, is at how he handles multiple POVs in one chapter, that reads like a seamless scene. In the large scale battles, you might see it from four points of view, all coming one after the other, some fighting each other, and yet not once did I feel overwhelmed; the second great thing about this book are the battle scenes. Ward has a particular skill in writing large-scale battles in which you have incredible, magical badassery on a small scale – for instance a duel – but at the same time, you know, feel and see that there’s a war raging around them; the characters are caught in a tide of battle that is both real and desperate with pockets of story flowing around each other. It truly is a marvel to read.

The prose was of particular merit. It was delightful, vivacious and sophisticated, but also blunt. To the point. There wasn’t a scene in this book in which I couldn’t vividly picture what was going on – there’s no expense spared in word usage here, neither is there any wastage. Each character has a clear voice, which is rebuffed by the history and culture they’ve grown up around – the worldbuilding is tied nicely into the thoughts, words and very soul of each character.

More on the world building – I saw Ward himself say that he wrote this as a story that fits within a lived history, just one point in a rich timeline – to which I agree; he has been very effective at making this world feel real. It could have easily started just before, after or years ago. There’s many tales to be told. I especially like the feel of drip-fed history, rather than force-fed world building. It took the stance that we knew the histories and didn’t have to over explain as this came naturally. Masterful.

My favourite part of the novel is its setting in time – it comes after the hero of prophecy has been and gone, and died. And that’s what made this shine, I don’t think any fantasy I’ve read to date has knowingly acknowledged that its prophesied hero is long gone, and the gods have took their feet off, and its all just a bit glum. All a bit human. Which is the marvellous thing about it.

If you’re in search of a new epic fantasy that has the feel of the old greats but with its own tinge of originality, this is the book for you. It has mega magic, warring families, politics, secret organisations and incredible characters. What more do you need?

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